October marks LGBT History Month, so we turn to Thomson Reuters Westlaw for historical perspective on key U.S. Supreme Court rulings and legislation related to LGBT civil rights.

The landmark civil rights case Lawrence v. Texas marks its 15th anniversary this year. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled a Texas statute criminalizing consensual same-sex acts violated right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause; the ruling invalidated all remaining sodomy laws in U.S.

Nearly 10 years later, the impact of the ruling extended to the 2012 Windsor v. United States decision, when the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. By 2015, Lawrence helped pave the way for the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

2015: A watershed year  

Westlaw data reveals that 2015 was indeed a significant year for LGBT rights, with 530 pieces of legislation related to LGBT rights proposed or enacted at the state and federal level. The volume dwarfs the 207 bills on LGBT rights proposed or enacted in 2014, as well as 234 such bills in 2013.

It was also a watershed year for transgender rights. According to Westlaw data, 153 pieces of legislation related to transgender rights were introduced at the state and federal levels in 2015, a significant jump from 77 such bills in 2014 and 72 related bills in 2013.

The 2015 uptick in transgender legislation has continued to 2018. Westlaw data reveals in the past year, 538 pieces of legislation related to LGBT rights were introduced at the state and federal levels. Of these, 342 were specific to transgender/transsexual rights or discrimination issues; 38 of the proposals were enacted.

2018: Rainbow wave

Proposals like New Hampshire House Bill No. 1319, which Governor Chris Sununu signed into law in June, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. On the other end of the spectrum are proposals like Iowa House Bill No. 2164 that, if enacted, would have restricted transgender people’s access to restrooms and areas such as locker rooms.

The surge in transgender legislation – anti-trans as well as anti-discriminatory bills – may be among the factors shaping the rainbow wave, which refers to the historic number of LGBT candidates running for office this year. This surge is fueled in-part by opposition to current lawmakers at both the state and federal level.

With midterm elections fast-approaching – as well as speculation the Trump administration intends to rollback civil rights protections for transgender people – we’ll soon know whether 2018 will mark yet another defining moment in the LGBT civil rights movement.


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